In the first post in this series I explored the possible benefits of external ex officio directors. These are places on the board for representatives of outside organizations. It was a call to dust off this artifact of non-profit board structure and modernize it.
I turn my gaze here to ex officio positions that are part of internal decision making structures. This has to do with adding more responsibility, generally without any specifics, to the work of those who are in primary governance roles. Usually this involves designating the board chair (or president), and the executive director (or CEO), where there is one, as an ex officio member of one or more board committees.
Is there an issue with a board member, or even your executive director, that you have avoided addressing? Perhaps you have a board chair that is failing to exercise any control over meetings, or a board member that dominates every discussion. On one hand you are afraid to broach the issue because the relationship is important. On the other, if you do not try to resolve things, the relationship may be in peril. In the context of non-profit governance, the existence of unresolved conflict can often lead to board member resignations by those close to the conflict and even those on the sidelines.
This long post is not really in the category of “how to deal with a problem director”. Its starting point is the idea that when conflict is present it needs to be understood before it can be successfully addressed. It offers some ideas on how to prepare for and initiate a “difficult conversation”.
Executive directors and chairpersons are often at a loss to figure out how to motivate their boards to show more interest or take on new tasks. But what is it that motivates board members in the first place? Perhaps they are already motivated but efforts to get the board members to change miss the mark. Sure, ‘giving back to their community’ may well be the reason most people serve on a non-profit board but is it useful to know this? Might there be lots to understand about board member needs and aspirations as volunteers before we ask more of them?